Carrie Kahn

Film Review: The Promise

by Carrie Kahn on April 21, 2017

Emotionally powerful new film brings story of Armenian genocide to light

Mikael (Oscar Isaac) arrives in Constantinople for medical school.

April 24th is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, so opening The Promise this weekend is obviously intentional. Irish director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and screenwriter Robin Swicord have made the first major Hollywood picture to tell a story about the horrific event commemorated by that date. If you can’t see the film this weekend, I would encourage you to see it when you can, as a way to both honor the tragedy’s victims, and to learn a history that many non-Armenians know far too little about.
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Five More Spotlights as SFFILM Enters Final Week

The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival wraps up this week, but there’s still time to catch a few screenings before closing day on Thursday; you can browse the schedule and buy tickets here. Stay tuned to Spinning Platters for our final spotlight posts to help finish up the Fest: we’ve got five more here (and you can read Chad’s previous posts here, here, here, and here).

1.) Maudie and Ethan Hawke Tribute
(Canada/Ireland 2016, 115 min. Awards and Tributes)

Everett (Ethan Hawke) and Maud (Sally Hawkins) on their wedding day.

In a true coup for cinephiles, SFFilm presented a tribute to actor Ethan Hawke at the YBCA Theater on April 8th. Following a delightful clip reel of Hawke’s career highlights, Michael Almereyda, Hawke’s director in 2000’s Hamlet, interviewed the actor. Hawke came across as smart, charming, modest, and immensely likable. In a conversation that ranged from Hawke’s start in high school plays to his embodiment of Gen X angst in 1994’s Reality Bites (“It’s a strange feeling to touch the zeitgeist,” he told us), Hawke gamely opened up on topics both professional and personal. His distaste for violence in films drew a round of applause. “It’s very hard to have a career in professional movies and not kill people,” he said, mentioning that Roger Ebert once toasted him for not killing anyone on screen until Hamlet. Movies that deal with connecting with other people are what he’s most drawn to, he told us, which helps explain his continuing collaboration with Richard Linklater, who memorably cast Hawke in the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise trilogy and Boyhood.

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Film Review: Gifted

by Carrie Kahn on April 7, 2017

Talented cast is the real gift in otherwise predictable family drama

Young Mary (Mckenna Grace) embodies the title with her exceptional math prowess.

Director Marc Webb’s new film Gifted asks us to not only buy a 7-year-old girl as an MIT-level math genius, but also hunky Captain America star Chris Evans as a former Boston University philosophy professor; I’m not sure which characterization requires the greater suspension of disbelief, but there’s a post-film discussion point for you. While somewhat predictable, Webb’s picture pleasantly surprises by not being nearly as hokey as the trailer would lead you to believe, and by actually offering up some emotionally heartfelt sincerity.
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Profiles in courage: Inspiring true WWII story worth seeing

Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) face danger as they undertake a heroic humanitarian mission during the German occupation of Warsaw.

Another film to consider in the context of Passover, but for entirely different, and far more somber, reasons happens to open the same day as In Search of Israeli CuisineThe eve of Passover on April 19, 1943 marked the burning and total destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by Nazi forces, in which, over the course of a month, despite a valiant uprising, thousands of mostly Jewish Ghetto occupants were either killed or deported to concentration camps. That horrific incident is one of many detailed in The Zookeeper’s Wife, a well-crafted, emotionally powerful film that tells a true story of resistance and selfless heroism in Warsaw during World War II.
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Engaging Israeli food and culture doc is a must-see for food lovers

Chef Mike Solomonov (r.) samples spices at the Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv.

Just in time for Passover comes this lovely and charming new documentary that is bound to delight foodies of all persuasions. Documentarian Roger Sherman will make your mouth water with his beautifully filmed images of sumptuous Israeli cuisine dished up by both street vendors and some of the county’s fanciest restaurants. In Search of Israeli Cuisine is writer/director Sherman’s attempt to answer a singular question: What is Israeli cuisine? In such a new country, is having a nationally defined cuisine even possible?
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The final words on the The Last Word are: Skip it

But of course the unlikely trio of Anne (Amanda Seyfried, l.), Harriet (Shirley MacLaine), and Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon) have a slow-motion, sunglasses-wearing, strutting down the street moment.

Shirley MacLaine has been making movies for almost six decades, so it’s a shame that as she enters her mid-80s and starts the twilight of her career, she’s not offered projects more worthy of her talents. Case in point is this saccharine, hackneyed new effort from director Mark Pellington, who previously brought us the much more entertaining thrillers The Mothman Prophecies and Arlington Road. In a radical departure from those dramas, Pellington, working from a paint-by-numbers screenplay by first time screenwriter Stuart Ross Fink, turns The Last Word into a predictable, cliché-ridden, and inordinately dull piece of wanna-be comedic fluff that is only barely salvaged by the casting of consummate actress MacLaine in the lead role.
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Film Review: Before I Fall

March 3, 2017
youtu.be/q3Zyy4ZXegE

Groundhog Day in high school: Reliving teen angst proves effective in new drama about growing up Gen Xers who still have a hard time grasping that all the cool, disaffected icons of their youth (Ethan Hawke, Winona Ryder, Kyra Sedgwick, to name a few) are cast as parents now — and of teenagers no less […]

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Noise Pop Film Review: Ticket to Write: The Golden Age of Rock Music Journalism

February 26, 2017
youtu.be/ih77mMgiONI

Engaging new doc brings us back to rock criticism’s glory days Last Sunday night, thanks to co-presenters Noise Pop and KQED, a crowd of music aficionados at the Swedish American Hall was treated to a viewing of writer/director Raul Sandelin’s documentary Ticket to Write: The Golden Age of Rock Music Journalism, followed by an engaging […]

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Film Review: Get Out

February 24, 2017
youtu.be/DzfpyUB60YY

Don’t stay in: Get Out and see this smart, fresh thriller Jordan Peele, one half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, makes his directorial debut with Get Out, a startling original take on the horror film genre that shouldn’t be missed. If you’ve seen the trailer, don’t be fooled; the trailer implies the movie may […]

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Film Feature: Carrie and Chad Pick the 2017 Oscars

February 22, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=abn6cPxrc5w

Film critics Carrie and Chad on who will – and who should – win the 89th Academy Awards The 89th Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 26th on ABC at 5:30pm PST (tune in an hour or so earlier if you want to see any of the red carpet glitz). Once again, Spinning Platters film […]

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